Sri Lankan food is one of the world’s more capricious cuisines. It’s not for the timid. At its worst it can decimate the palate and force an unnatural obsession with toilets (and toilet rolls). At its best the lively and punchy flavours can elevate you to a higher level of culinary appreciation. Whilst Indian curries (especially from the North) tend to be richer and creamier, Lankan curries are known for their spicy coconut bases and prolific use of vegetables. Indeed, given the island’s strong Buddhist influence, it is only natural that Lankan food is closely associated with vegetarianism.
RaBo serves three types of rice and curry: fish, chicken and vegetable. It also offers a variety of short eats: pol roti, hoppers, egg rolls and cutlets. The owner is a friendly bloke with a ready smile that radiates good vibes. Located next door to Yi Lian Vegetarian Food, it would seem that these two stalls fly the flag for vegetarianism in Tekka. Wahey!
665 Buffalo Road, Tekka Food Centre, #01-280
Open 07.30-20.30 Tuesday-Sunday; CLOSED Monday
A good looking plate of food, I must say. Vibrant greens and yellows from the mallung (a leafy vegetable that was chopped and mixed with chilli, coconut and carrot), curry leaves and lentils gave a good indication of the natural flavours and crunchy textures that I was about to enjoy. As expected, chilli and coconut dominated each bite, but there were some interesting nuances. A dry dhal with cabbage contributed a strong cumin flavour, whilst shredded string beans, jackfruit seeds and gourd added bitterness to the plate. My favourite curries were the mallung (amazingly crunchy and refreshing) and the dry dhal with cabbage and cumin (a more soothing type of spice that helped balance the chilli). Towards the end of the meal I found finely chopped flecks of red, yellow, green and brown all over my plate; a sign of how committed this place is to serving up the freshest of flavours. I even watched the owner dive into the fridge to take out the tomato, cucumber and red onion garnish. You can’t fault hawker-style professionalism like this.
During the sustained periods of time I have spent in Sri Lanka over the years, some of my fondest culinary memories are associated with pol roti (or ‘coconut flatbread’). I used to eat stacks of it for breakfast, smothered in butter and woodapple jam. A fusion of flavours if ever there was one. It goes without saying that I have a huge soft spot for these things, and could eat them day in and out. It may be because I haven’t eaten any for a few years, but I thought that RaBo’s were exceptional. The texture in particular was spot on, being both dense and granular at the same time. I even enjoyed the chilli dip, which had a delicious tanginess to it.
Together with the pol roti, the vegetable roti makes up RaBo’s selection of vegetarian short eats. Again, this thing was a serious piece of snackage. Large and heavy, it was stuffed (I repeat: stuffed) with a spicy potato and vegetable filling. It was so dense it almost constituted a meal in itself. The spices were strong, but it was undeniably a slice of Sri Lanka. Sweet Lanka, I miss you.
A fantastic find. Raja Bojun serves up some of the best Sri Lankan food I have eaten; certainly the best in Singapore. Whilst Lankan rice and curry may not be to everyone’s taste, I can guarantee that this is about as authentic as it gets. Absolutely delicious.